Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

Are you 79½ or 80?

August 15, 2020

I’m a few weeks away from my 80th birthday, which turns out to be a cultural watershed of sorts — the dividing line between being “in your 70s” and “in your 80s’, which is definitely old age. But that doesn’t actually make a lot of sense: the decades according to the calendar correspond to no natural physiological milestones, especially not ones so very sharply delineated. One period of life shades into another, with relatively long transitions.

The matter isn’t just theoretical, but of great practical significance, as detailed at some length in the New York Times on-line on 2/20/20, in “The Upshot: How Common Mental Shortcuts Can Cause Major Physician Errors: Tendencies like left-digit bias can have life-altering consequences for patients” by Anupam B. Jena & Andrew R.Olenski (in the print edition on 2/21, under the title “Are you 79½ or 80? Your Doctor’s View May be Life-Altering”):

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Chaka Khan and post-Freudian psychoanalytic thought

July 31, 2020

Margalit Fox on Facebook on the 29th:

Time to get my hearing checked. This evening’s dialogue:

Husband: “Jacques Lacan is the thinker who merged post-Freudian psychoanalytic thought with Structuralism.”

Me: “Chaka Khan merged post-Freudian psychoanalytic thought with Structuralism?? …”

Jacques Lacan / Chaka Khan — some phonological similarity (same accentual pattern, shared medial /k/ and final /n/, initial /ǰ/ vs. /č/, differing only in voicing, vowels similar but not calculable here because of dialect differences in their quality), but then there’s /l/ vs. /k/), but largely the connection is through their being two relatively exotic proper names of cultural significance.

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Pavlov’s novelist

June 16, 2020

Today’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro collabo, with a groaner pun on the name F. Scott Fitzgerald (the American writer) plus an instance of the Pavlov cartoon meme:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 2 in this strip — see this Page.)

The pun is straightforward (it does depend on your recognizing Spot as a conventional name for dogs in English); but though Pavlov isn’t mentioned in the cartoon, it’s all about classical, or Pavlovian, conditioning, and the cartoon makes no sense unless you recognize the allusion to Pavlov, and also recall that Pavlov conditioned his dogs to salivate (and expect food) on hearing a bell ringing (here, the carriage return bell on a typewriter, which younger readers will be unfamiliar with, typewriters being an obsolete technology — but the cartoon helpfully fills in this bit of typewriter arcana).

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Where your personalities go when you’re having sex

February 27, 2020

Will McPhail (in a New Yorker “Daily Shouts” piece on 7/1/18) thinks they socialize pleasantly with one another — have a coffee together, play pingpong, eat hot dogs, shoot some hoops — while speculating wryly about how you’re managing without them and fretting poignantly about when they can get back to helping you through your lives.

All about sex, but with two feet as the only bodyparts depicted and the verb bounce as the only sexually tinged vocabulary. Unfolding in a cartoon of ten gentle, unhurried panels featuring two wraith-like personalities, one blue-green, one red-purple.

(After the McPhail I’ll write a bit about sexual ecstasy as an altered state of consciousness, with a link to some decidedly hard-core writing about sex at the gay baths, but with no actual raunch here.)

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individuals, people, persons

February 13, 2019

From a mail pointer to a 1/30/19 article in the journal Psychological Science, “Similarity Grouping as Feature-Based Selection” by Dian Yu, Xiao Xiao, Douglas K. Bemis, & Steven L. Franconeri:

Individuals perceive objects with similar features (i.e., color, orientation, shape) as a group even when those objects are not grouped in space.

Point at issue: individuals rather than people, a mark of a consciously formal, “scientific” way of writing, appropriate (some believe) for reporting on research in psychology.

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On the journalism watch

August 30, 2018

Two recent magazine articles of linguistic interest: from the Atlantic issue for September 2018, “Your Lying Mind” by Ben Yagoda, about cognitive biases; and in the New Yorker‘s 9/3/18 issue “The Mystery of People Who Speak Dozens of Languages: What can hyperpolyglots teach the rest of us?” (on-line title; “Maltese for Beginners” in print) by Judith Thurman.

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Involuntary memory

May 26, 2018

From Day 2 (May 25th) of the 2018 Association for Psychological Science’s convention in San Francisco:

“For many years, involuntary memories were ignored. I’m here to tell you what we have learned about this intriguing phenomenon,” said APS Board Member Dorthe Berntsen in the 2018 Presidential Symposium. Berntsen’s multi-decade body of research on this unique form of autobiographical memory has shown the wide-ranging influence of the memories that simply pop into our heads without intentional retrieval. She presented an impressive body of experimental findings on the role of involuntary memory across the lifespan in humans as well as in apes.

For some time, I’ve been collecting examples of one particular form of involuntary memory in my life — morning names, the expressions that come to me unbidden when I rise in the morning. There’s a Page on this blog listing my postings on them. So it’s nice to discover that there’s actually a research community working on involuntary memories.

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Discordance

May 25, 2018

Via Esha Neogy on the Our Bastard Language Facebook group, this Andertoon:

(#1)

Sentence 1 asserts that some text is grammatically active, but sentence 1 itself is a grammatically passive. Vice versa for sentence 2. Each sentence shows a discordance between a grammatical voice as the topic of a text and the grammatical voice of the sentence about that text. Not actually a contradiction, much less a paradoxical self-contradiction, but a language prank that flirts edgily with these possibilities.

What it is like is the discordance of the Stroop effect, where a color name and the color the name is presented in are at odds, as in this New Yorker cover by the artist Saul Steinberg:

(#2) In my 6/15/17 posting “For Saul Steinberg”, a discussion of the effect

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The Mankoff rat cartoon

November 15, 2017

On Language Log on October 5th, Mark Seidenberg, “Cartoonist walks into a language lab”:

[Bob] Mankoff’s involvement in humor research isn’t a joke. He almost completed a Ph.D. in experimental psychology back in the behaviorist era, which is pretty hard core. Before he left the field he co-authored a chapter called “Contingency in behavior theory”, as in contingencies of reinforcement in animal learning. The chapter included this cartoon:

  (#1)

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Housemates

May 19, 2017

The occasion is the discovery of more photo albums from the past, in this case the relatively recent past. One had photos of two friends who shared the Columbus OH house with Jacques and me in the 1990s: Philip Miller (during a postdoc year in linguistics at Ohio State) and Kim Darnell (while she was finishing her PhD in linguistics at Ohio State). Then there’s our last housemate before Jacques and I moved entirely to Californa, our bookfriend Ann Burlingham, who was working in Columbus bookstores at the time.

After teaching in (mostly) Lille, Philip is now in Paris. After years teaching in Atlanta, Kim is now in Palo Alto. And Ann has been in Perry NY (south of Rochester), where she owns and runs Burlingham Books, for some time now.

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